It was sloppy good fun, according to press reports. This year's Wing Bowl, an eating contest that takes place every February in Philadelphia, starred such contestants as Dr. Slob, Wing Tutt and Dave the Dumpster. They rode on floats not quite fit for the Thanksgiving Day parade into the Wachovia Center, an arena packed with 20,000 typical Philly fans--not quite cordial, not quite sober. "Wingettes," women dressed to impress in the testosterone-laced crowd, accompanied the contestants and served them all-they-could-eat chicken wings.
After three rounds and 30 minutes of competition, and two competitors disqualified by regurgitation, 22-year old Californian Joey Chestnut stood victorious having eaten a Wing Bowl record 173 wings.
The Wing Bowl might sound out of control, but to risk management specialists in entertainment events, nothing could be further from the truth.
"I think it's really great," said Lew Bostic, vice president of risk management at Comcast-Spectacor, the company that hosted the Wing Bowl. (A local sports radio station originated and organized the promotion.) Bostic, who has been head of risk management at Comcast Spectacor for 19 years, said a lot of "foolishness" took place at the Wing Bowl, but no dangerous incidents or unacceptable behavior.
Bostic said he approached the Wing Bowl as he would any of the other 250 to 300 events that Comcast-Spectacor hosts every year. For each one, a major part of risk management is gauging the level of acceptable behavior. The bar is raised for the Wing Bowl, he said, because of the nature of the eating contest.
"There would be different acceptability levels for a concert for Andre Bocelli," Bostic said.
Chris Rogers, risk control director for Aon's entertainment group, agreed that risk managers, when faced with a unique promotion like the Wing Bowl, would treat it like any other event, by first conducting an "event risk assessment."
"They look at all aspects of the event," he said, "including the location, the demographics of the audience that is going to be coming, what the participants will actually be doing, and historically, what has this particular event generated for them in terms of issues.
"Insurance coverage is another part of this assessment. Responsibility between an event host and a promoter is typically made clear in the event contract, Rogers said, so it is important for a risk manager in Bostic's shoes to be familiar with these contracts.
"On the indemnification side, a risk manager wants to assure himself that, if they are assuming some liability, what is it, and therefore, do their policies cover that," Rogers explained. "Anything that is being assumed by the promoters' insurance company, he wants to be sure that they're a viable insurance company and that they'll be there to stand behind it should something occur."
Bostic said Comcast Spectacor self-insures to a significant level. Individual events like the Wing Bowl are each contracted, with the contracting party having the responsibility to have primary coverage for indemnification. Insurance requirements, Bostic said, are usually set for each contract, but the right is reserved to change the coverage if an event warrants it.
As for promoters, Aon's Rogers said that most have general policies that cover liability on most events. Promoters can also cover a lot of risk management ground with a waiver or contract for event participants. These contracts usually include a request for evidence that participants are medically sound to "handle the rigors" of eating nearly 200 wings, or whatever else a promotion entails, according to Rogers.
The Wing Bowl promoters have such a disclaimer in the official event rules: "All contestants must be physically able to participate in the contest and must certify prior to participation that there is no physical, psychological, medical or other reason . . . as to why the rapid consumption of a large quantity of food would adversely affect their health."
April 15, 2006
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